On April 10, the College of Health and Human Services will host the 2015 Community Heroes Awards to recognize the unsung heroes in our community whose actions, thoughts and words have had a transformative power in our region. Our heroes, who represent each of the seven departments and four centers within our college, put others before themselves to genuinely make a difference for the residents of our region. All month long, we will be highlighting our 11 honorees in our Community Heroes Series.

Debbie Tuttle
Photo Credit: California Oncology of the Central Valley

Name: Dr. Debbie Tuttle, RN-BC, FNP-BC, AOCNS

Occupation: Nurse Practitioner at California Oncology of the Central Valley

Nominated by: School of Nursing

A personal experience in Dr. Debbie Tuttle’s life set the framework for her nearly 25-year nursing career working in the area of oncology. When she found out her sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36, Tuttle made it her mission to learn more about the disease that affects one in eight U.S. women in their lifetime. Since then, she has devoted a great deal of her time working with breast cancer patients from the early stages of screening and diagnosis, risk assessment and genetic testing to chemotherapy to survivorship through end of life.

Tuttle, a nurse practitioner at California Oncology of the Central Valley, said her experience working with women diagnosed with breast cancer is a humbling one, and the strength and perseverance these women show during their diagnosis has inspired her to want to learn more. Her steadfast desire to ensure excellence in nursing to the breast cancer community is among her highest passions.

Simply put, she wants to not only directly and indirectly impact the quality of life of patients, but also enhance and strengthen their ability to cope.

“These women inspire me with their courage, hope and laughter,” says Tuttle. “I am driven to want to improve the experience for all women diagnosed, but particularly those women who struggle to understand and cope with their diagnosis and the treatments involved. I feel it is my responsibility as an oncology nurse to try to make their experience better for them.”

As a lifelong learner, Tuttle pursued her educational opportunities to the highest extent. She was among the first cohort to graduate in May 2014 from the Doctor of Nursing Practice from the California State University, Northern California Consortium Doctor of Nursing Practice, a joint effort between Fresno State and San Jose State Schools of Nursing.

One of her core reasons in pursuing her doctorate degree was to improve the patient education provided to cancer patients. She set out with a goal in mind to make patient care a priority and through her DNP project, she was able to do just that, in part due to the connections and support she received from nursing faculty.

“I am so thankful that for the great strides that have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer and I believe oncology nurses and advanced practice nurses are positioned ideally to evaluate and improve the experience for these women and their families,” says Tuttle, who has been nationally certified in oncology care since 1994. “I feel blessed to have this opportunity.”

Tuttle has not only seen her patients triumph through tragedy, but has also lived it for herself, having lost her 19-year-old son, who was killed in action while serving overseas in Afghanistan in July 2014. In honor of her son’s brave sacrifice, Tuttle has applied to volunteer for the California State Military Reserves, where she will serve as the medical officer for the Fresno area with an anticipated date of being commissioned in April 2015. She will continue in her role as an oncology nurse practitioner but will refocus some of her efforts as she addresses this dramatic life event in her family. However, she is quick to mention that her love of being an advanced practice oncology nurse is who she is (not what she does), and she will return to this focus in improving outcomes for these women in the future.

It is clear to see that no matter where Tuttle’s passion takes her, she is first and foremost a nurturer who believes in providing opportunities for patients to experience the best quality of life they can. She demonstrates that in her daily practice with humility and grace and credits those who gave her the tools to give back through her profession.

“I thank the many exceptional oncology nurses and allied health care providers, I have worked with who have been my teachers, my leaders, and my peers over the years.”


The 2015 Community Heroes Awards will be held on April 10, 2015 at Fresno State. For more information on the event, contact Beth Wilkinson at 559.278.3603 or bwilkinson@csufresno.edu or click here.